Lifelong Texan, fourth-generation El Paso resident and small business owner Beto O’Rourke stopped in Madison County last week, the 189th county of his 254-county trek across Texas, campaigning for the U.S. Senate.
His grass roots approach is geared toward getting a sense of what the people of Texas want from their elected officials, so he’s driving to every county in the state to do just that.
“Congress no longer responds to the people, it responds to the careerists, it responds to the party bosses, the corporations and special interests — lobbyists wrote the tax bill, and write almost every bill in Congress,” O’Rourke said. “That institution doesn’t get the business of the people done anymore.”
O’Rourke currently is representing the 16th Congressional District in Texas, and serves on the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs committees.
“My goal in Congress has been to improve outcomes and care for veterans,” he said. “I’m very focused in turning around the Veterans Administration in El Paso, in Texas and across the country, making sure vets can depend on getting quality care at hospitals and clinics and reduce the veterans suicide crisis in this country.”
O’Rourke also said that he’s working to ensure that those who earned the post 9/11 GI bill can access that benefit, and is trying to reduce veterans’ homelessness and unleash the potential that veterans have.
“(Veterans), more than anyone else in this country, have the experience and expertise that they can contribute back to the success of communities, the state and the country,” he said.
As part getting that done, O’Rourke believes in the art of compromise.
“Anything I can do for veterans in Congress I’ve done with Republicans,” he said. “I’m a Democrat, but I work across the aisle on any issue that’s important to me.”
O’Rourke said that the current divisive nature in Congress is not an appealing way to do business.
“The basis (of government) is compromise,” he said. “That’s a dirty word in Congress. But very often, there’s common ground for us to work with.”
O’Rourke kicked off his campaign for Senate a year ago to ensure that Texas has true bipartisan leadership on the issues.
“Veterans issues, health care, job training, the wars we are starting that create the veterans in the first place we want to make sure the U.S. is not overextended,” he said. “We also want to make sure we do it the right way.”
O’Rourke also will keep his campaign on the ground level.
“I don’t take PAC money, no corporate cash, no special interests, and despite that, I’ve outraised Ted Cruz so far, raising more than $5 million on average contributions of $25,” he said. “This is a campaign all about the people of Texas. All 254 counties are important to us.
“If in the next 10 months we can visit every community in Texas and listen to the people we want to serve, whether Democrat or Republican, and find out what’s on their mind — when folks realize that I listen to them and don’t have corporate backers, that we’ve rejected PACS and conventional wisdom in politics, including party bosses, we’ll have a real shot,” he said. “We’re seeing it in the turnout.”